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PROPERTY management and customer experience will be key to the future value of real estate, said Professor Yolande Barnes, chair of UCL’s Bartlett Real Estate Institute, at a British Property Federation webinar focusing on tackling the property industry’s skills gap.

Speakers at the event also included RealService founder and managing director Howard Morgan and Experience Makers producer Harriet Jones.

“The things that make real estate valuable are the people and what they do in the space,” Prof Barnes said. “There was a weird time in the 20th Century when money was made through inflation and the value-adders were those who could trade property at rising prices.

“However, the closed club of big-building real estate is dismantling. Upward-only rent reviews won’t be what creates value in the future, it will be the long-term performance and management of the building.

‘Property managers have come from central casting’

“It’s about the income which can be generated from the people in the building and that puts property management and customer experience front and centre.”

However, according to a report for the British Council for Offices, written and researched by customer experience consultants RealService, the industry is not blessed with a customer-centric culture and those who have been employed in customer-facing roles have come largely from outside the sector.

“Property managers often look as though they have come from central casting,” said Howard Morgan, the author of the BCO report. “We found there is nothing in the major real estate universities or in the APC process which emphasises the importance of customer experience. People are graduating without an understanding of who their customers are.”

In an effort to transform real estate and provide training to ambitious young property professionals, BREI has teamed up with Experience Makers to launch an executive short course – CX in Real Estate:  Future Leaders Programme. The course directors are Prof Barnes and Howard Morgan.

Experience Makers is a research, education and networking community which aims to put ‘life and soul into property’ and has a number of major landlords among its members. Many have contributed to the course content and endorsed it as a much-needed game-changer for the industry.

“There should be alarm bells ringing because landlords need to future-proof against what’s going to be a major change in the office sector and the impact of the internet on the retail sector,” said Harriet Jones.

“Customer experience is not just about making sure there’s a smile at the front desk, it’s about designing all your strategies around the customer and developing those processes. It is beginning to happen, and Experience Makers members can vouch for that, but it’s not happening quickly.

“The Future Leaders Programme is calling for pioneers to come and challenge the system, challenge RICS and change the language and processes of real estate.”

Other areas covered by the panel included the lack of diversity in the industry and discussion around how young people from different backgrounds could be attracted into property management.

The CX in Real Estate: Future Leaders Programme aims to address many of these shortcomings and will be run over five sessions, starting on May 6. Core to the course will be modules on customer experience strategy and design.

For more information on the Future Leaders Programme, please contact harriet@experiencemakers.com

To see the BCO report please head here

For the full BPF webinar please click here